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Behavioral Effects Induced by Mitochondria-Targeted Antioxidant SkQ1 in Wistar and Senescence-Accelerated OXYS Rats


Mitochondrial dysfunction is involved in aging and in neurodegenerative diseases and, therefore, pharmacological agents that alleviate mitochondrial dysfunction are expected to have neuroprotective effects. Promising in this respect is mitochondrial-targeted antioxidant plastoquinonyl-decyl-triphenylphosphonium (SkQ1). We investigated the effects of SkQ1 (250 nmol SkQ1/kg × day with food) on behavior in the elevated plus-maze (EPM) and open field (OF) and on spatial memory in a Morris water maze (MWM) in middle-aged (12 mo) Wistar and senescence-accelerated OXYS rats. Given that changes in the behavior of OXYS rats may be associated with visual impairment, the condition of the retina and the lens was evaluated by ophthalmoscopy. 14-month-old as well as 3-month-old OXYS rats had considerably reduced activities in OF, increased anxiety in EPM, and manifested impaired learning abilities in the MWM in comparison with Wistar rats. SkQ1-treated rats of both strains displayed significantly higher locomotor and exploratory activity in the OF and less anxiety in the EPM compared to age-matched controls. SkQ1 significantly improved visual ability of the rats reducing the severity of the developed signs of retinopathy and cataract but had no impact on OXYS rat's spatial memory in the MWM. SkQ1-treated Wistar rats exhibited slower learning in the MWM task comparison to the control group. Thus, SkQ1 had beneficial effects on locomotor and exploratory functions of the rat brain. Nevertheless, SkQ1 did not alter learning performance in the MWM in OXYS rats and slightly reduced it in the Wistar strain, which may be associated with differences in redox homeostasis.